Pet therapy, also known as animal-assisted therapy (AAT), is a type of therapy that involves animals as a form of treatment for individuals with mental health conditions.
Benefits of pet therapy for mental health:
Reduced symptoms of anxiety and depression: Pets can reduce symptoms of anxiety or depression, giving people a reason to get up in the morning. The presence of an animal prompts the body to release serotonin, prolactin, and oxytocin, which generate a relaxation and stress-reducing response, according to UCLA Health. This hormone release can lower symptoms of depression and sadness, helping support good mental health.
Improved self-esteem: Pet therapy can improve self-esteem and self-confidence. The unconditional love and acceptance that animals provide can help individuals feel more positive about themselves and their abilities.
Reduced stress: Pet therapy can reduce stress and promote relaxation. Interacting with animals can lower cortisol levels, a hormone associated with stress, and increase the release of oxytocin, a hormone associated with relaxation and bonding.
Increased physical activity: Pet therapy can increase physical activity. Walking, playing, and caring for animals can provide a fun and enjoyable way to get exercise and improve overall health.
What types of animals are commonly used in pet therapy?
Here are some types of animals commonly used in pet therapy:
Dogs: Dogs are the most common type of animal used in pet therapy. They are well-trained and have good temperaments, making them great candidates for therapy.
Cats: Cats are also commonly used in pet therapy. They can provide comfort and companionship to individuals with mental health conditions.
Rabbits: Rabbits are gentle and social animals that can be used in pet therapy. They are often used in nursing homes and hospitals to provide comfort to patients.
Horses: Horses are used in equine-assisted therapy, which involves interacting with horses to promote emotional growth and healing. This type of therapy can be beneficial for individuals with a wide range of mental health conditions.
Guinea pigs: Guinea pigs are small and gentle animals that can be used in pet therapy. They are often used in nursing homes and hospitals to provide comfort to patients.
Birds: Birds, such as parrots and cockatiels, can be used in pet therapy. They can provide companionship and help reduce stress and anxiety.
Pet therapy can be beneficial for individuals with a wide range of mental health conditions, including depression, anxiety, PTSD, and schizophrenia. If you're interested in pet therapy, talk to your healthcare provider to see if it may be a good option for you.